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Ryan White's
Mother Welcomes Chance to Discuss AIDS With Mike
Huckabee

Ryan White's
Mother Welcomes Chance to Discuss AIDS With Mike
Huckabee

Huckabee200712

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White -- who attracted nationwide attention after contracting HIV from a tainted blood treatment in 1984 and died at the age of 18 in 1990 -- said she welcomed the opportunity to speak with Republican Mike Huckabee to discuss his comments about AIDS. "I think if we meet I'm going to give him one of Ryan's books," she told The Advocate, referring to the book her son authored about his battle against AIDS. Ginder-White requested the meeting after Huckabee, a former minister whose presidential candidacy has recently caught fire, defended his 1992 statement that the federal government needed "to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.'' Speaking on Fox News Sunday last weekend, Huckabee declined to retract the comment but said he was not suggesting that AIDS patients should have been quarantined. He did not offer an alternative explanation for how people living with AIDS at the time could have been isolated.

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White -- who attracted nationwide attention after contracting HIV from a tainted blood treatment in 1984 and died at the age of 18 in 1990 -- said she welcomed the opportunity to speak with Republican Mike Huckabee to discuss his comments about AIDS.

"I think if we meet I'm going to give him one of Ryan's books," she told The Advocate, referring to the book her son authored about his battle against AIDS.

White-Ginder requested the meeting after Huckabee, a former minister whose presidential candidacy has recently caught fire, defended his 1992 statement that the federal government needed "to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.'' Speaking on Fox News Sunday last weekend, Huckabee declined to retract the comment but said he was not suggesting that AIDS patients should have been quarantined. He did not offer an alternative explanation for how people living with AIDS at the time could have been isolated.

White-Ginder also hopes to bring with her some folks who are living with AIDS. "They're very responsible, they're back to their jobs because of the meds, and I would just like him to see the new face of AIDS today. It really saddens me to think that they don't have a presidential candidate's support. We have to respect the disease and the people who have it."

While campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, the former Arkansas governor told the Associated Press, "I would be very willing to meet with them. I would tell them we've come a long way in research, in treatment."

Though Huckabee's meteoric rise in the polls nationally and in the early primary states has put his record under greater scrutiny, White-Ginder was surprised there wasn't more of an "outcry" about his recent comments or even the statement he made back in 1992. "It was a big disappointment really, because a presidential candidate even referring to that information in '92 was unrealistic," she said, recalling the early '80s when people initially thought that casual contact involving kissing, tears, sweat, and saliva might spread HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. "We fought so hard -- and I'm not just saying me and Ryan -- to get us where we are today. I just think as a presidential candidate, we really have to be watchful of what we say and do because you are going to represent all of us -- and yes, you're going to represent all our people with AIDS if you are our president."

White-Ginder said that getting information out about AIDS and HIV has been particularly difficult because of "the religious and moral issues that have always surrounded the disease." Especially in Southern states and other conservative areas of the country, she added, "we haven't been able to make it real to people that everybody is at risk for this disease. Now, some people are at higher risk, but this is everybody's disease." An estimated 550,000 people have died of AIDS complications in the United States up through 2005.

White-Ginder tends to lean toward supporting Democrats but added that she works with legislators on both sides of the aisle and said, "I have a great deal of respect for both parties." Her biggest concern in the race for president is not electing someone who advocates for abstinence-only education in schools and public facilities rather than educating adolescents about birth control, condom use, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

"As a mother who has been involved in this AIDS epidemic for so long, I hear the stories, I see the faces, I know what kids are doing, and it's not what we parents ideally would always want them to do," she said. "But we have to be real, we have to get real with the disease. And we have to be able to speak about it at church and at home and in schools."

The Huckabee campaign did not respond to a request for comment. (Kerry Eleveld, The Advocate)

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